A History of Phoenix Hall (Part III)

December 20, 2021

The Formation of Phoenix Lodge

Series courtesy of Colin Meddes, Susan King and Elizabeth Allison

Phoenix Lodge was constituted on 25th November 1755 and has the proud distinction (at the time of writing) of being the 54th oldest lodge out of 10,000 that are currently within the United Grand Lodge of England.

The formation of Phoenix Lodge marked the start of regular Freemasonry in Sunderland with the commencement of the first known fully documented account of a lodge from its constitution. From brief snippets in the Newcastle Courant and occasional references in the Minute Books of the Marquis of Granby Lodge at Durham, there would appear to have been a lodge of lodges operating in Sunderland at various intervals between 1735 and 1751. What this lodge or lodges were, however, is not known as no evidence has, to date, been discovered.

At first Phoenix Lodge, in common with other lodges of the period, used to meet in hotels and taverns where a room could be rented for meeting and food and refreshments provided. However, in 1778, a purpose-built meeting place was provided for the Lodge in Vine Street.

The Original Hall in Vine Street

Prior to the building of the Hall in 1785, Phoenix Lodge used to meet in a purpose-built hall in Vine Street, a hundred yards or so to the east of the Golden Lion Hotel. The first plot of land for this hall was purchased in 1764 by Captain George Thompson who was His Majesty's Surveyor of Customers for Sunderland and served as the Master of Phonix Lodge for several years. This plot was too small to accomodate a hall and it was not until 1775 that Captain Thompson could purchase the adjoining land and thus build his hall which was opened on 16th July 1778. As Captain Thompson purchased the land and paid for the building of the hall out of his own pocket, he retained owndership of it and rented it out to his Lodge for a small fee.

The hall served the Lodge well until a disasterous fire occured on 18th / 19th November 1783 following a meeting of the Lodge. This destroyed the building and all furnishings including valuable paintings and books. Fortunately, the Lodge records were kept at the home of the Secretary and were therefore saved. The original deeds for the hall in Vine Street are held by the Museum of the Prvincial Grand Lodge of Durham.

Photo of authorJohn J.

A stalwart of the lodge - John joined Phoenix in 1972 - for nearly thirty years he served as Lodge Secretary (save when he has occupied the chair of Master, most recently in 2004). He is now an honorary member. His most recent promotion within the province was to Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden. Considered a goldmine of masonic information, particularly with respect to our lodge, he recently assisted Historic England in the completion of their report into the historical significance of our beloved building. With what little spare time he has, John enjoys reading, research, and delivering lectures.

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